The big TV companies have put the hard word onto TV recording startup TVCatchup, which has had its service suspended after complaints from the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Channel Five. TVCatchup launched in trial around October last year, allowing users to tag the shows they wanted recorded on a programme guide and share those copies with other members.
Once you signed up you could use the TV schedule to set things to ‘record’ in your own private space. This would then be recorded and encoded as flash video to be streamed directly from the site. It even did ‘series link’ so you could get it to record a whole series. The site was pretty slick and, at the time, rather puts the efforts of the main TV companies to shame in terms of ease of use, quality and scope of content. There were also plans to launch a mobile version of the site in Q2 2008.
Obviously it immediately attracted the major broadcasters, which have all been investing in their own services including the Kangaroo project. The site probably drew more scrutiny when it signed a commercial deal with advertising firm 24/7 Real Media.
The site has now posted a note:
In recent days, TVCatchup has become aware of the Broadcaster’s (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five) increasing concerns over the free personal recording functionality that this website offers.
On 15th February, our hosting was terminated without warning and we presume this was at the request of such Broadcasters.
Given that this will no doubt happen again, TVCatchup has therefore voluntarily suspended its services whilst the concerns of the Broadcasters are addressed.
We apologise to all for this temporary interuption to service.
This page will provide a service update as matters progress.
16th February 2008
So it looks like the hosting service or ISP used by TVCatchup was, shall we say, ‘leant on’ by the broadcasters.
The BBC told the Guardian “We are concerned about the unauthorised commercial exploitation of our rights, and those of our contributors, by TVCatchup. The BBC together with the other UK terrestrial broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are currently jointly in correspondence with TV Catchup, and we have no further comment to make at this stage.”
Adam Smith, the founder of TVCatchup, previously argued the site was legal because there are time-shifting exemptions in copyright law. Unfortunately for TVCatchup, the law is applied to personal use such as video recorders, not commercial operations. I’ve tried calling Adam Smith but the phone number goes straight to a voicemail at this point.
The future for these sites does not look good. Testcard.tv is still ‘on hold’ after voluntarily shuttering its service in response to a Police raid on TV Links. Testcard.tv, put up by the owners of etribes, drew heavily on data from TVLinks.
So it looks like the Deadpool for all three of them.